Genre Spotlight: Shoujo

Shoujo is a genre of manga beloved by readers of all ages and genders. Its style of lanky bodies, beautiful looking characters with big eyes (both male and female), stories focusing on girls and women, and often its common focus on romance has made it a staple of manga both in Japan, as well as the United States. This blog is all about the impact made by some of Shoujo’s most important creators and their works, including: Osamu Tezuka, Moto Hagio, Naoko Takeuchi, Yuu Watase, Bisco Hatori, Aya Kanno and CLAMP.

 

Osamu Tezuka is widely regarded as one of the first and most famous manga creators in Japan. His works moved manga towards longer formats filled with creativity and excitement, drawing from the works of Walt Disney and his own amazing imagination as inspiration. In addition to laying the groundwork for modern anime and manga, and developing the concept of recurring characters, themes, and story-lines, Tezuka was also widely responsible for the development of what later would be the Shoujo manga genre. Though Tezuka published many Shoujo stories, the longest and most famous of these stories was the Princess Knight. This story drew from Western fairy-tales combining them with the Japanese all women Takarazuka Revue aesthetic creating a narrative with lots of swordplay and romance. It is also an early narrative that explores themes of gender identity and contains various interesting supernatural elements, which are themes that would later be popularized and expanded upon by other Shoujo creators. Tezuka’s works laid the groundwork for other Shoujo authors to create their own works for girls and women.

Recommended Reads: Princess Knight, and Phoenix Early Stories

While Tezuka had a huge influence on Shoujo manga, Moto Hagio was one of the first creators to focus primarily upon the genre. Largely credited as the “founding mother,” of Shoujo, Hagio continues to be celebrated as one of Shoujo’s most important pioneers and creators. Hagio is especially well known for her use of science fiction and LGBT themes, as well as her short stories which were recently collected in English in a collection entitled A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. These stories laid the groundwork for narratives taking place in unusual settings with a variety of themes, and expanded upon Tezuka’s focus on female centered works and the examining of gender and sexuality.

Recommended Reads: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, Neo parasyte M

Naoko Takeuchi is widely known for her most famous work Sailor Moon. The story of an average girl turned hero has been a smash hit both in the United States and in Japan, drawing on the magical girl genre and mixing it with that of Japanese Sentai coloured hero teams (think Power Rangers). This blend changed the magical girl genre forever making way for more complex and action oriented stories staring women. Sailor Moon also had a huge impact on the US manga market, being one of the first major Shoujo series to become a hit for the company Tokyo Pop, and encouraging their rival Viz to make Shoujo a major publishing priority.

Recommended Reads: Sailor Moon, and Code Name Sailor V

 

Yuu Watase is well known for her use of portal narratives. Her shoujo work often involves relatable characters as they are transported to different worlds such as ancient story book civilizations, or have elements of other worlds enter the characters’ world. Watase often focuses upon journeys, and classical Bishonen and Bishoujo character designs (meaning Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls designs) which are a staple of modern Shoujo works. She also has a very traditional art style blending traditional art and older Shoujo styles, with new themes that explore cultural conflict and romance.

Recommended Reads: Ceres, Celestial Legend, Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play, Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, Alice 19th

Bisco Hatori is an especially important creator, because her works comment so much on other Shoujo titles and themes. Hatori loves to deconstruct and play with common Shoujo stereotypes such as romantic pairings and character types. She often enjoys parodying the absurd nature of Shoujo while also showing a profound appreciation and respect for it. Her work Ouran High School Host Club is especially famous for poking fun at the various male leads characters tropes, having the lead character being a snarky crossdressing gender queer character rather than the traditional feminine and romantic female lead, and having a variety of very weird and absurd characters. By both simultaneously embracing and rejecting traditional genre features, Hatori is able to mix serious concepts such as romance and drama with lots of comedy effectively.

Recommended Reads: Ouran High School Host Club, and Millennium Snow

Aya Kanno has done a lot to take the genre of Shoujo in new directions. Her works Otomen and Requiem for the Rose King both focus upon narratives of gender identity and expression, and trying to meet enormous gendered expectations in rigid gendered culture. Her stories tend to be more complex than many other creators presenting a variety of emotions and unusual storylines centered on identity and expression. Her artwork is also noted for being unique and beautiful to look at, presenting attractive and unique looking characters.

Recommended Reads: Otomen, and Requiem of the Rose King

Perhaps the most important modern Shoujo manga creator group is CLAMP. Formed from a group of creators known for fan written manga, CLAMP has developed into one of the most important and influential modern creator groups. CLAMP often blends Shonen themes, adventure, and action into Shoujo themes of Romance with a unique shoujo style of art. Their stories contain all sorts of interesting elements such as witches, robot doll battle contests, universe hopping, LGBT romance, magic, magical girl fantasy blends, and many other unusual and exciting facets. Within these unique stories CLAMP’s characters show range and depth and can go from serious to goofy, while remaining realistic. CLAMP is also known for linking their story universes together and having characters in various series mirror one another in personality and design. Their many works have been huge hits both here in the United States and within Japan, and they are regarded as some of the most important innovators of the genre.

Recommended Reads: XXXholic, Legal Drug, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Chobits

 

 

 

 


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